#CBR5 Maneuver #24 – Cursed Pirate Girl
Profile: Comics, Fantasy, Pirates!
After Action Report:
Way back in June, I attended the Denver Comic Convention. In the process of browsing the expansive artist alleys, I came across a curious man with a nose ring doodling some incredibly intricate, scrimshaw-esque pictures. Next to him were copies of his book, Cursed Pirate Girl, bound in a distinctive light blue cover and filled with more of the same detailed black-and-white drawings. It was easily the most interesting thing I’d seen at the Con so far. I impulsively grabbed a copy. Two hours later, covered with the paper flakes of Pirate Girl’s beautiful faux-old ragged pages, I was in love.
Now, to be fair, I love fairy tales. And Cursed Pirate Girl is a fairy tale for people who love the idea of adventure on the high seas; being spirited away by a noble pirate captain and exploring forgotten ruins in search of treasure. It’s The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making with more water. And this is where the review comes off the rails, because I’m horribly biased towards this kind of storytelling, not only because it’s basically just a fairytale wrapped in salt-soaked ropes and topped with a talking parrot, but because it is a well-handled coming of age story that casts the girl as someone capable of anything. Congratulations Mr. Bastian, you’ve punched all of my buttons.
Cursed Pirate Girl opens on Apollonia, the sheltered daughter of the Governor of Jamaica, who catches sight of a fight breaking out between two boys and the titular Cursed Pirate Girl. After kicking some ass, the girl, who is never named beyond the appellation ‘Cursed Pirate Girl,’ enthralls Apollonia with tales of her pirate father, a legendary captain of the Omerta Seas and her own desire to set off and find him. Upset that his daughter might have been corrupted by a lowly pirate peasant, the Governor orders the Cursed Pirate Girl killed.
When the murder is botched, CPG pairs up with Pepper Dice, a talking parrot from the Omertas, who promises to take her back to her father in exchange for a place by his side. Pirate Girl agrees and the two set off for adventures on the Omerta Seas.
Aside from the obvious and familiar notes of girl empowerment, Cursed Pirate Girl really emphasizes the wit and intelligence of its young protagonist. The Cursed Pirate Girl is interesting because she outwits as often as she outfights, and while she does befriend two strong knight-like swordfish, she doesn’t rely on them for muscle, just a helping hand when needed.
But the real reason to pick up this intriguing blue tome is the artwork. Bastian’s exquisite hand-drawn pages are crammed with sailor iconography, fantastical sea monsters and complex rope borders to tie it all together. Reading the book isn’t so much a test of your literacy, as it is a measure of your ability to not be distracted by the things going on in the background and on the sides of the frames. The high congestion of images on any given page can be problematic at times, but isn’t as big an obstacle to comprehension as Bastian’s occasionally cryptic lettering. On dense pages with oddly shaped speech bubbles, the hand-written text can become, not illegible, but very resistant to casual reading.
There isn’t a lot more to say other than, ‘it’s good.’ At its core, Cursed Pirate Girl is a simple story told well. The ending of the first volume gets a bit clunky in its pacing, adding a self-contained adventure but not resolving it before the end of the book, but that is a function of the comic book medium. While final judgment hinges on the continued quality of the series, Cursed Pirate Girl is off to a great start.